Presidential runoff candidate Jean-Pierre Bemba announced that he will not return to war if he loses to incumbent candidate Joseph Kabila in a free and fair election. “I will accept the decision of the ballot” Bemba said in Kinshasa on Thursday. The highly anticipated runoff election takes place this Sunday, 29 October in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Bemba’s announcement on Thursday calms the fear in the DRC and abroad that conflict will return after the Presidental results are announced around 19 November. Although this is not a guarantee that there will be no violence, it is certainly a step in the right direction.
The European Union force in the DRC–EUFOR–and the UN Mission to the Congo–MONUC–are beefing up security in Kinshasa and other volatile areas on the eve of elections. EUFOR plans to leave the DRC in the end of November after results are announced. If violence is going to break out in the Congo, most observers believe it will happen in the last few weeks of November. Thus, another important step towards continued peace and security is the extension of EUFOR’s presence until at least the end of the year.
The international community has invested a great deal in the DRC, but 50% of post-conflict countries return to conflict within 10 years and the DRC remains in that danger zone. This is not the time to scale back on security, technical assistance, or humanitarian aid. MONUC, EUFOR, and the international community must maintain their committment to peace in the DRC through both action and word in the post-election period.